Thursday, July 4, 2024



Knowing their malice, Jesus answered the Pharisees, "Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God."
Matthew 22:15-21

We are always reading about the ongoing battle between Jesus and the religious leaders of his day. Since Jesus was very popular among the ordinary people on the streets, these religious leaders could not attack him directly so they resorted to trying to trap him in his speech so that they could have something to accuse him of should there be a heresy or sedition trial. It's sort of like the old “loaded question” joke where a person asks, "Do you still beat your husband?" If you say "yes," you are doomed for agreeing that you do beat your husband! If you say "no," you are doomed because you have just admitted that you used to beat him previously!  You are trapped in your own speech no matter how you answer! 

This week, they thought that they had Jesus cornered. First, they schmoozed him with false flattery to get him to open up. “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.” They then asked him whether it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not. They thought they had boxed in with a clever “damned if you do and damned if you don’t” dilemma. If he said “Yes, it is lawful” he would offend and lose his followers who hated Caesar and his taxes, but if he said “no it is not lawful” then the Roman government would come after him for sedition.   Jesus outsmarted their trickery by answering, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s!”  

I may have worked for the Church all my adult life where I was expected to give God and his people my best, but what many Catholics do not know is the fact that I am not tax exempt as far as the government is concerned! I have had to give to Caesar like many of you - in fact at a higher rate than some of you! You may not know it, but tax-wise diocesan priests are considered "self-employed." That means that the Church does not pay half of my 12.4% social security taxes. I pay the whole 12.4% as well as the 2.9% standard Medicare taxes, income taxes and I am expected to donate to the church, the annual Catholic Services Appeal and other charities. When I was working at St. Meinrad, Bellarmine and the Archdiocese, I was paying Spencer County and Indiana state taxes, Kentucky state taxes, Jefferson County taxes, Louisville City taxes, United States income taxes. In other words, the Church may be tax-exempt, but we diocesan priests are certainly not! I would say with confidence that I have followed the direction of Jesus in today's gospel as far as "giving to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's" and I have felt happy and privileged to do it! 

One of the things that Jesus seems to approve of in his "give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's" statement is the separation of church and state, something I whole heartedly accept. The ideal for government, as far as I can see is the delicate balance of "freedom of religion" and the "freedom from religion." I want to be free to practice my religion, but I also want to be free from being forced to practice any other religion.  I know enough of history to know, that when one religion dominates the government then people get hurt and all sorts of abuse develops whether it is a country where the only religion allowed is Moslem or where the only religion allowed was Catholic. We are still suffering from the results of the Crusades, the Inquisition and when the Pope and the bishops ran the government. Even in our own country. we Catholics especially should never forget that there were days when being a Catholic was illegal in most of the colonies and we could be killed for practicing our Catholic faith because our Protestant brothers and sisters still remembered how they were treated back in Europe when we were in charge!  



Tuesday, July 2, 2024


“It's not so much that we're afraid of change or so in love with the old ways, but it's that place in between that we fear . . . . It's like being between trapezes. It's Linus when his blanket is in the dryer. There's nothing to hold on to.”
Marilyn Ferguson

I am once again caught in the uncomfortable "in-betweens" of life! It's like what my niece said on her back deck after her first husband died, "I knew who I was yesterday, but I don't know who I am today!"

I have been in this position before so I am familiar with the uneasiness of this spot, but I also know that it is part of a priest's life. It is most certainly part of a diocesan priest's life. Unlike a monk who is permanently attached to one community for life, we are "moved" every few years - more or less! In my experience, this painful "breakdown" is usually followed by an even better "breakthrough." I trust that, in time, this will happen again - if I can get through this latest transition!

A week ago, I was in a nice rhythm of moving between the parishes of St. Frances of Rome and St. Leonard for the last few years after I had settled in after a second painful transition out of the Cathedral. This week I find myself a casualty of the reorganization of those two parishes. Being given only one Mass a month at least till October at St. Leonard and none at St. Frances of Rome, I am out looking for a place to offer my ministry! I am feeling "lost" again! However, I know that "in time" I will find another place to do ministry and "settle in" again!

There are many of us going through the "in-betweens" these days. Some are trying to find a new life balance after the death of a spouse, child or close friend. Others are going through "recovery" and "physical therapy" after major surgery, trying their best to believe they will "get better" in time. Others are between jobs, moving from one city to another and adjusting to a new house and neighborhood. Others have moved from the home they grew up in, away from their parents for the first time and trying to adjust to college life. Others are facing "empty nesting" after their last child leaves home after marriage or leaving for college. Others are facing moving into assisted living or a nursing home after having been forced to give up driving and other independences.

I still remember something I said to myself when I left the Cathedral for the first time after fourteen wonderful years of "managing" a "new golden age." I said to myself, and wrote it in my journal, "Who said you only get one "golden age?" I found out how true it was as I have been through at least four new "golden ages" so far: writing a column for The Record weekly for 14 years, working at St. Meinrad as a staff member after receiving nearly a $2,000.000.00 grant from the Lilly Foundation, leading over 150 priest convocations and retreats in 10 countries and working in the Caribbean Missions.

It happened to me not only because I was "lucky," but even more so because I was "intentional." I was "open to" a "new golden age" each time the last "golden age" ended! I remember clearly telling myself that no matter how "wonderful" my 14 years were as pastor of the Cathedral, I was not going to spend my life just talking about the past! I was going to be open to something "new" again and again as long as I was alive!

I know others who have done the same: one spouse dies, and after a time of grief, they are open to marrying "someone else" and they do, they lose one job and find an even better one, they recover from surgery and feel better than they have for years! I could go on and on! They have, with the grace of God, found the truth in Marilyn Ferguson's statement:

“It's not so much that we're afraid of change or so in love with the old ways, but it's that place in between that we fear . . . . It's like being between trapezes. It's Linus when his blanket is in the dryer. There's nothing to hold on to.”

The pain is in the "letting go of the old" and the "opening up to the new!" C.S. Lewis was so right when he said, "God gives his gifts where he finds the vessel empty enough to receive them!" If you are now living in the "in-betweens," try to remember the words I said to myself when I was going through my conscious "in-betweens" back in 1997 when I left the Cathedral, "Who said you only get one "golden age?" Your present grief is often a painful "emptying" so that there is room for God to give you more wonderful gifts! 

Sunday, June 30, 2024


“Daughter, your faith has saved you!”

Mark 5:21-43

Today we have the cure of a woman with great faith, but in the next chapter of this same gospel, Mark reports that Jesus could work no miracle there because of people’s lack of faith.”  Still later Mark says that people were begging to brought to the marketplaces so that they might touch the tassel of his cloak, and as many as touched it were healed. It was not a holy robe or tassel that caused the woman’s cure in the gospel today, it was her faith that triggered her cure - an abnormal acceleration of the natural healing processes that God placed in her when she was being formed in the womb. 

I believe in the possibility of faith healing us physically. When I was in the Home Missions, I anointed an old German man who had a deep, but simple faith. He had an ulcer on his hand that had not healed for years. He wanted it to be anointed, believing that God could heal it for him. I accommodated him without much hope, but guess what? He came back a few weeks later and, sure enough, his ulcer was gone!

When my mother was dying of cancer, we gathered in the living room for a celebration of the Sacrament of the Sick. We anointed her, with prayers that she would be healed. She was not healed physically, but she certainly was healed spiritually. After that anointing, she accepted her condition with an amazing peace and calm from that day forward.  

Even doctors will tell you that people have mysteriously gotten well when they are able to believe that getting well is possible, while they have mysteriously lost patients who gave up on their treatment.

The Church has anointed the sick since the very beginning, but it has gone through a great transformation in our lifetime. The oldest written gospel, Mark’s, records these words: “They expelled many demons, anointed the sick with oil, and worked many cures” (Mark 6:13). These original disciples passed this practice on to their followers. We read about it in the Epistle of James: “Is there anyone sick among you? He should ask for the presbyters (priests) of the church. They in turn are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the Name (of the Lord). This prayer uttered in faith will reclaim the one who is ill, and the Lord will restore him to health” (James 5:14-15).

The sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick began its demise in the twelfth century when it started being called Extreme Unction or Last Rites. It began its comeback in 1974 when we began to call it again by its correct name, Anointing of the Sick. Today we celebrate this sacrament with those who are seriously ill—physically, emotionally, or spiritually.

There is no question about it: Jesus was a faith healer. The gospels are filled with stories of cures he brought about. There is no question either that Jesus gave his disciples a share in this power and told them to use it. The oldest written gospel, Mark’s, records these words: “They expelled many demons, anointed the sick with oil, and worked many cures” (Mark 6:13).

Down through the ages, people of every culture have believed, almost instinctively, that somewhere there resides a healing power that can be activated under certain conditions. The power to evoke this healing is usually attributed to holy men and women, who evoke it directly from God through various ceremonies, such as the laying on of hands, anointings, prayers, or the touching of relics and images. Even modern science has admitted that these healers have often obtained dramatic results where medical skill has failed. The process of all healing is a definite, positive mental attitude, an inner attitude or way of thinking, called faith. We often say, "I will believe it when I see it!" Actually, it is the other way around. "Believe it and then you will see it!